Eagles Falter in Regular-Season Finale against Montana

After falling to Grizzlies 6-1, Eastern earns No. 3 seed in Big Sky tourney

The Eastern Washington University men's tennis team saw its Big Sky winning streak come to an end on Saturday (April 14) in its regular-season finale. The Eagles, who had won three-consecutive conference duals heading into the match, fell to Montana by a score of 6-1 at the Lindsay Tennis Center in Missoula, Mont.

Had Eastern won the match against UM, it would have earned at least a share of the Big Sky regular-season title. But instead, the 7-0 Grizzlies captured the crown and the No. 1 seed in the 2012 Big Sky Conference Men's Tennis Championship, held April 21-22 in Sacramento, Calif.

Eastern solidified the No. 3 seed in the event and will play No. 2 Sac State in the semifinals next Saturday. The winner of the conference championship earns an automatic berth in the NCAA tournament.

It looked as though the Eagles would gain the early advantage against Montana, as they were up 7-2 at No. 1 doubles, 7-1 at No. 2 and 7-4 at No. 3.

Eastern's No. 3 pair of Mario Navarro and Ilija Cuic took care of business in their match, winning 8-4. But a sudden shift in momentum in the other two ended up costing Eastern a whole lot.

At the No. 1 spot, Montana's Mikolaj Caruk and Andrew Warren rallied back from a 7-2 deficit to force a tiebreaker against sophomore James Russell and junior Kyle Koetje. With the support of a home crowd, the Grizzlies managed to win the tiebreaker and thus the match, 9-8 (7-1).

Seniors Julian Sanchez and Chad Henninger, who had a 5-1 conference doubles record in coming into the match, also struggled to put this one away. With a 7-1 advantage, Sanchez and Henninger allowed the Grizzlies to claw their way back, and ended up dropping the match at No. 2, 9-7.

The devastating turn of events in doubles seemed to carry over to singles, as Eastern lost its first three matches in straight sets. Cuic was the first off the court, as he fell to Caruk at No. 2, 6-1, 6-0. Henninger lost at No. 4 to UM's Michael Facey, 6-4, 6-3, and Russell dropped a 6-2, 6-2 decision to Carl Kuschke.

Navarro was able to earn one point for EWU, as he topped Andrew Warren at No. 3, 6-4, 7-5.

Both Sanchez and Koetje battled valiantly in their matches at Nos. 5 and 6, respectively, but neither had enough to outlast their opponents in the three-setters.

After winning his first set, 6-2, Sanchez lost the second in a tiebreaker, 7-6 (7-5), and then dropped the third, 10-5.

At No. 6, Koetje suffered a 6-4, 4-6, 10-8 loss to Andreas Luczak.

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